Joel Siegel Movie Reviews


Aug. 1, 2003 -- Now in theaters: Gigli and American Wedding.

Gigli I've never seen this kind of vitriol, just plain open hostility about a movie. People are ready to hate Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck.

The Daily Onion, a news satire Web site, has been running a story, "Gigli Focus Groups Demand New Ending," where J.Lo and Ben die brutal deaths.

Gigli's not that bad. It's no Ishtar. It's not Heaven's Gate. It's not as bad as Madonna's last movie — or any of Madonna's movies, for that matter.

To qualify as a historic failure, a film needs a measure of pretension and all Gigli ever wanted to be was a romantic comedy. What it is, is a dreadful romantic comedy.

J.Lo and Ben are gangsters who kidnap a mentally handicapped kid to blackmail the boy's older brother, a federal prosecutor who's after mob boss Al Pacino.

I like Jennifer Lopez as an actress. She's a natural, and the truth is you've got to work hard to be natural. Ben Affleck, an Oscar-winning screenwriter, is a man of many talents. I'm not sure acting is among them.

His anger is one-dimensional. If he'd read the same lines with a bit of sympathy or humor the film might have worked. Who's to blame? It could be the actor didn't have the chops, could be the director who didn't ask for another take, there's no way a critic can tell.

In Gigli, J.Lo is gay — or so she tells Affleck. Is this supposed to be a joke? I thought so. But instead of a punchline, J.Lo's former lover stalks her and slits her wrists in a suicide attempt.

There's a phrase — "jump the shark" — when a movie or TV series becomes irretrievably bad. It comes from a Happy Days episode when The Fonz water-skis, in his leather jacket, and jumps over a shark.

The jump-the-shark moment happens here when Ben Affleck calls the kid he's kidnapped (who is either severely retarded, autistic or has severe Tourette's syndrome, we never know for sure) an "Effin' Retard" and then hits him. The End. Goodbye. There's no way Affleck's character can be sympathetic after that. And, to pile it on, Affleck and Lopez receive orders to cut off the kid's thumb.

I had trouble figuring out what kind of movie Gigli meant to be. I checked the commercial: "The romantic comedy of the summer," is how it bills itself.

I've never seen romantic comedy with a suicide attempt, or, also in Gigli, a point-blank murder, let alone the brutalizing of a complete innocent. Still haven't. Grade: D

American Wedding American Wedding, the hardly awaited sequel to American Pie I and II, picks up right where the others left off. Which is to say it starts at the bottom and works its way down from there.

Parents of America, this is not innocent fun. It is one more example of Hollywood at its most cynical — an R-rated movie made for 13- and 14-year-old boys, filled with acts and activities that would earn the screenwriter a Ph.D. in abnormal psychology, if anyone would admit to having thought these things up.

American Wedding is rated R for repulsive, repugnant and wretched. And you know what really bothers me? They screw up in Hollywood and I'm the one who gets punished. I have to see these movies.

At least American Wedding leaves me with words I never thought would pass my lips, "Gigli's better." Grade: D

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